[FOM] First edition of The Russell-Whitehead Principia

Cameron Freer freer at math.mit.edu
Wed Oct 8 14:54:00 EDT 2008

> On Sep 6, 2008, at 12:36 AM, T.Forster at dpmms.cam.ac.uk wrote:
>> I have been visiting Allen Hazen in Melbourne, and we were discussing the
>> delightful book of Owen Gingrich in which he recounts his quest for the
>> destination of all the copies of the first edition of the Copernicus {\sl
>> De Revolutionibus}. The book was partly a result of Gingrich's irritation
>> at a remark of`Koestler's to the effect that nobody ever read it.  For us
>> FOM-ers an interesting parallel question is the question of who actually
>> read the first edition of PM. We have an easier task than Gingerich because
>> we know what the print run of PM was (The print run of de Revolutionibus is
>> not known). We know Quine read it, and we know Hilbert read it....
>>    So what Allen and I are asking you all to do is this. Visit the library
>> of your institution and see if it has a copy of the **first** edition. If
>> it has, please email Allen and me with the details. If it was bequeathed to
>> the library by an earlier owner please tell us about him/her.  Perhaps you
>> even own a copy of the first edition yourself...?

On Mon, 15 Sep 2008, Charles Parsons wrote:

> Here is my report on holdings of the first edition of PM in the
> Harvard University Library.
> It appears that no part of the library has a full set of all three
> volumes.
> The online catalogue lists four holdings, two in Robbins Library (the
> philosophy department library) and two in Houghton Library, the rare
> book and manuscript library.
> The upshot of my investigation is that there is in fact nothing in
> Robbins and that the two copies in Houghton (of volume 1 only) were
> transferred there in 1979 from Robbins. Therefore the Robbins entries
> actually refer to the same books as the Houghton ones.
> One of the copies in Houghton has the bookplate "Department of
> Philosophy and Psychology" and a handwritten note that it was the
> gift of Josiah Royce on 26 February 1911. It has a few marginal
> notes; those I noticed were in the introduction, probably not all in
> the same hand and very likely by library users.
> The other has an inscription on a flyleaf "C. I. Lewis, with the
> regards and best wishes of J Royce, Jan 26, 1911." It has a modern
> bookplate "Department of Philosophy" and there was evidence that it
> was given to the department by Lewis in 1954, during the year after
> his retirement. There are marginal notes in the introduction in a
> very neat hand, which I would guess to be Lewis's.
> A copy of PM that had belonged to the Harvard logician H. M. Sheffer
> (1882-1964) is still in Emerson Hall. Although Sheffer surely studied
> at least some of the first edition, this copy is of the second.
> Charles Parsons

MIT has one copy of the first volume of the first edition in the
Institute Archives. 

It was a gift of Arthur N. Mansfield, Class of 1891, and entered the
MIT library on June 3, 1912.

Subsequently, it was placed in the Runkle Library of Mathematics
(the bookplate was glued over the top of part of the Mansfield

There is a circulation slip ("FORM L25 10M   21 Sept. '26") with two
entries -- a stamped "Dec 31 1927" and a handwritten "1 July" below that.

All 13 errata have been penciled in, and there are a few other
pencil markings in the introduction -- mostly "Df." in the margin of
some definitions, or parentheses added to formulas.


One may view a scan of University of Michigan's copies of the first
edition of all three volumes online:

They are stamped June 21 1940, April 27, 1912, and April 28, 1913, respectively.

Cameron Freer

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